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seismic. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. leading off tonight, earthquake. scenes out of a disaster film. when a earthquake struck off the coast of japan today it set off destruction the likes of which we have never seen before. it set off a tsunami that swept over rural and urban areas with devastating results.
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the 8.9 quake was the strongest in japanese history. strongest on record anywhere ever. the latest from japan and from experts in america. the u.s. is offering to help with rescue and airlift operations. the quake led to tsunami warnings in hawaii, alaska, and the west coast of the u.s. there was no real damage. plus, that's what it was. here's what wisconsin senate majority leader told fox news about the battle against unions out there. if we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you are going to find is president obama is going to have a much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of wisconsin. there you have it. in black and white. look for democrats to use wisconsin as a rallying cry in 2012. gas lines from republicans. first haley barber suggested president barbour engineered price increases to get americans to drive smaller cars and take trains. then john boehner blamed the president saying that he's
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blocking energy production. apparently mr. boehner never heard of libya. what's behind the latest nonsense? everything republicans say is aimed at the ears of conservative iowa caucus voters next year. we start with the earthquake in japan. i have been watching your coverage and what had you to say about this. all i can tell you, i do see a lot of disaster movies. this look real and very scary. what was it like? >> reporter: yeah. talk about scary. this happened 188 miles north of tokyo but when it -- struck here, we felt it here all the way down in tokyo. it was so bad i couldn't stand. you had to sort of crouch a little bit to -- you know, not fall down. >> you know, i just saw a
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picture. you don't get the benefit of it. we are looking at a picture looking through the windshield of a car. apparently the streets up there. you know, i remember being through a very mild earthquake in northern california. if you are in a car you don't feel it. i'm looking at that car rocking and rolling there. even in a car with shocks and tires, you can see the action. you were watching -- tell me what you were doing, what you will remember when you tell your grandkids about today and yesterday. >> reporter: well, you know, obviously the pictures that have come through, the aerial pictures of the tsunami, everybody is saying that it is not so much the earthquake itself but the tsunami generated by this earthquake that caused this massive destruction. you probably see pictures of cars rolling in the water like toys. and which -- shows you the magnitude of the strength of the tsunami. >> let's talk politics for a minimum. the government, is there a sense that this very early date -- only hours from this tragedy beginning, that the
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government -- society of japan was prepared for this kind of event? >> reporter: you know, i think it is really difficult to be prepared for anything of this magnitude. the prime minister left about an hour ago in a helicopter and he is going to be visiting -- touring the scenes near the epicenter. and he has been handling the special task force and just -- about less than an hour ago, he had ordered residents living here, one of the nuclear reactors, expanded the evacuation from three kilometers to ten kilometer radius. so he -- he has been -- the -- he has been on top of it for this. >> you know, arata, we are
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looking at cars going -- first, cars going over a little water fall like in philly by the museum. just cars going over like little light toys. these are cars that weigh a ton going over the water. we are watching a flow of water going through a town crashing the village -- crashing the buildings down and moving them like they are all made -- look at these pictures. i don't think steven spielberg can come up with this kind of stuff. this is amazing stuff. >> it is pretty -- it is frightening. the fact it happened during daytime, i think people were able to see -- we have had large tsunami before. they happen at nighttime. we didn't know -- didn't grasp the strength of it. we saw the destruction when it left afterwards. this time we saw it real-time. we saw the waves coming into the coast. and the helicopters filming this, followed it. then -- picked up the cars like it was toys.
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and it just showed the magnitude of the tsunami this earthquake caused. >> you have a new earthquake that came in overnight after midnight. what kind of damage is that doing on the west, western part of the country? >> reporter: yeah. it was a totally separate mechanics that caused this earthquake. it registered 6.6. so far we have not heard any injuries from that earthquake. we heard a report that one wooden building collapsed. but so far we have not heard any -- any injuries. that could change. it is getting light out now. we might have a better assessment in daylight. >> looking at these pictures for a minimum. let's watch these things for a minute here. i sflefr seen footage like this. there's actually a peaceful part of the country.
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look at that big hole. what about the aid coming from america? the day after, do you have a sense that the americans are coming with aid right now? is that a part of the story now over there? >> reporter: unfortunately it is not. not yet. i'm sure they will be needed down the road. right now i think that the japanese self-defense force is being mobilized to some of the areas. first, you know, first thing that has to be done is have a better assessment of the extent of the damage. that's not even clear yet. communications are down. the japanese military has to fly more choppers to get, you know, a bird's eye view of the destruction. pockets of areas there may be areas where help is much needed. >> wow. look, great reporting, arata yamamoto. what a memory you will have. we may have you back next week.
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dave specter is an american that was in tokyo during all of this. thank you for joining us over there. you are on skype. i think i'm hearing myself over there as well. >> good afternoon. >> tell me what you went through. >> well, i was in a car at the time. the car started to shake rather violently. and you are seeing right now what i took with an iphone i had. and it seemed maybe it could to be the wind but too strong for the wind. we noticed the traffic signals moving. and the car just wouldn't stop shaking. this went on and on for at least two minutes. so i got out of the car and noticed people had all left the buildings they were in. and everybody was looking up expecting something to fall on their heads. it was frightening scene. as you mentioned earlier, it was very -- >> wow. how are the people taking it over there, dave?
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>> well -- >> shook up. are they emotionally scared of another aftershock hitting them or what? >> japan is the most earthquake conscious country in the world. they have so many tools in place to help the damage be as small as possible. they have earthquakes all the time. they have an early warning system which actually alerts you to an impending earthquake 30 seconds and as long as a minute before it strikes which men's you can perhaps get under a table or turn off the goods or leave the building you are in, your house. so -- very, very good with earthquakes. one of this magnitude, there's no way you could do anything about it whatsoever. you just have to accept whatever fate you had. fortunately people in tokyo at least did no see the kind of damage that you are seeing on your screen right now. behind me there are japanese television news channels on. 24 hours a day. and they are saying that they
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have been -- there are 400 casualties that are known right now. over 700 people unaccounted for. i -- i'm afraid that number is going to increase a great deal today. >> this tsunami are they prepared for the eventuality in 10, 15 minutes, cars floating along like their made of balsam wood. going over waterfalls. cars and other refuge -- i have never seen the like of this. >> any large earthquake, even a medium-scale earthquake, they issue tsunami warnings that are on the television screen throughout the period you have to be careful of. it is very, very detailed and very particular. people get warnings on their cell phones. and television and radio. so they knew that it would -- time of arrival of the tsunami is alerted to them rather precisely. but a lot of people did not get
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out of way in time. sometimes it reaches further than it was expected. so even though you see a lot of cars being tossed into the water, it does not, of course, mean there are people inside those cars. they did have time to get out safely. that said, there are hundreds of casualties. >> i have never seen cars float that well. thank you, dave. an american in tokyo there for the history today. when we return, we are going to talk to a seismologist about what to expect in the coming hours. plus the challenge of cooling down that damaged nuclear reactor. this is opening up all of the questions of nuclear energy in this country. you have to bet the critics of nuclear energy are going to go after this one and say look what happens. i wanted you to see these pictures.
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the 8.9 earthquake that hit japan this morning was the strongest to ever hit the country. it overtook coastal cities in japan. hundreds are dead and still missing others. japanese officials are trying to ease pressure on a nuclear reactor whose cooling system failed in the earthquake's aftermath. what triggered all of this under our earth? what should we expect in coming hours. joining us is frank vernon, geophysicist. jim walsh, research expert with m.i.t.'s securities studies program. one at a time here. different topics. to you, mr. vernon. what happened under the earth? does this have anything to do that happened in new zealand and what might happen now and later?
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>> what happened in japan was a subduction zone earthquake which created a magnitude 8.9 event which propagated a lot of energy into the shore there. creating a tsunami that you've seen all sorts of information an videos on and provides a lot of damage onshore. >> is there any way, it's like asking what caused this weather. what causes an earthquake? what is the most basic -- give me a basic primer on that. >> basically what you see happening here is that there's a subduction zone. we've got two plates moving together. one under the pacific ocean, diving underneath japan, sliding down underneath japan. it has to break every once in a while and that is a very large event which occurs on several hundred year recurrence intervals, but this is something that's not unexpected to happen in the long term. >> i've got relatives that live
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>> jim, we have a big debate. you are part of it the safety of nuclear energy. we know we have an energy challenge and can't get as much gas as we would like at the price we would like. people are looking at nuclear energy to take care of our energy needs in terms of electricity, et cetera. but is this going to -- does this shake you? when in fact you realize that japan has been unprepared? >> sure. the scale is so large and we're facing i don't think the nightmare scenario's going to happen here, but it could. i'm less concerned about a japan, a unit. united states. when people talk about a nuclear renaissance, they're mostly talking about third world. developing countries. iran with its brand new nuclear reactor. how would they handle an 8.9 quake? i don't think very well. it does raise issues at least in poor countries in areas where earthquakes are a big deal.
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>> we're used to taking precautions with radiation. you go to a doctor's office and notice his technicians leave the room when there's an x-ray. is there something where you don't take enough precautions, we're not going to make a major investments necessary to make sure as much we can there won't be an accident. >> i think you are right about that, chris. you look at japan. the third biggest economy in the world. it's advanced. has lots of earthquakes. many facilities were built to withstand an earthquake, but not at this level. why? because people thought, well, that's unlikely. we're not going to spend a ton of money on something that's highly unlikely and then the day comes when the unlikely thing happens and you're at risk. benefit analysis tend to make you not prepared for those things that are unlikely, but
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could be catastrophic. >> let's compare this to the situation over there with the facility there that we know all about today. compare that to chernoble of three mile island and the issue of the coolant. there was talk earlier today around 1:00 this afternoon. the united states would have to speed coolant. why wouldn't the japanese have a sufficient amount of this material if it was necessary to cool down a reactor. >> you're right, chris. i've been talking to a lot of my friends in this business today and were totally puzzled. it's a lack of electricity. the deal is, if you're going to keep this plant from having a meltdown or other problems, you have to cool it down. to do that, you need electricity pumps pumping water to cool that down. the problem is, the first set of pumps went down.
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then the backup set of pumps went down. can they get some sort of electricity to get the pumps going again. if they get the purposes going again, are they going to run into other issues. now, they've evacuated people once, twice. so there is some concern about that. we'll know in the next 24 hours. this is the critical period right now. >> thank you very much. let me get back to frank for one last question. what are the chances of sub siding in the northern california area along the fault? of the land mass slipping into the sea? >> essentially none. we will have tech tonic motion, which moves in slow turns, but nothing would happen in scale of our lifetimes. >> so i can rest assure there will not be some sliding of northern california. >> yep, you can buy your property there. >> thank you so much. nbc news chief white house correspondent chuck todd with
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president obama's response. he will be here in bhint. minute. this could be one of those unusual opportunities for a good relations between our country and another country. this one. look at this. they need help. you're watching "hardball" on msnbc. [ wind howling ] [ technician ] are you busy? management just sent over these new technical manuals. they need you to translate them into portuguese. by tomorrow. [ male announcer ] ducati knows it's better for xerox to manage their global publications. so they can focus on building amazing bikes. with xerox, you're ready for real business.
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our thoughts and prayers are with the people of japan. this is a potentially catastrophic disaster and images of destruction and flooding coming out of japan are simply hereto heart breaking. today's events remind us how fragile life can be. our hearts go out to our friends in japan and across the region and we're going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy. >> that was good work for the country and world there as the president, earlier today on the massive earthquake we've been watching for the last 20 minutes that struck japan. the president's committed two
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aircraft carriers and he told japan's prime minister the united states will provide whatever his country needs. let's turn to chuck todd. you and i don't usually talk about these things, but nature has spoken here. and incredible disaster that looked like a disaster film actually. looked like something was done digitally. is this a chance for us to do something good? >> it's amazing in his presidency in these two and a half years, brian williams said it during our special report. the amount of different events that have fallen into the lap of this president in the last two half years, some of them having to do with nature and some not. this of course with nature. japan is america's if you were going to rank them, probably second closest ally after great britain. >> was this a good opportunity
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for the president to remind everybody he grew up in the united states, hawaii? first thing i thought of, you know, with all this crazy talk something like huge percentage of republicans, maybe they still do to it stick it to him, since a large number of people believe -- huckabee misspoken comment by him, newt gingrich theory, he apparently did it a cull of times this week. didn't he say the other day we can't agree on everything, for example, i grew up in hawaii. he said to it a republican group. >> well, that's -- you know, do i think they thought this was another chance, no. they called this press conference because they didn't have a chance to talk about gas prices and this sitting close to home for a lot of people and were looking for an opening. this is the case where events just crowded out the whole purpose of the press conference.
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that's an interesting theory. it certainly did give him an opportunity to remind folks of where he grew up and who with. >> yeah. it's pathetic he has to do that, but thank you so much. sorry to bring you into our concerns here, but one of the strange critique of him from the right that he's not really one of us that never seems to end. thank you for that great reporting. that's "hardball" for now. up next, "your business." homeowners -- rates have been going up, but you can still refinance to a fixed rate as low as 4.75% at lendingtree.com, where customers save an average of $293 a month.
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Hardball Weekend
MSNBC March 13, 2011 7:00am-7:30am EDT

News/Business. The best of 'Hardball With Chris Matthews.' New.

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